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Companies to reimburse Idaho workers for travel costs to get abortion

Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup, listens as President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with business leaders about the debt limit in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)  (Evan Vucci)
By John Sowell Idaho Statesman

Two companies with employees in Idaho will cover travel expenses for workers who seek abortions after one of the most restrictive laws, which was scheduled to take effect on April 22, was temporarily blocked Friday by the state’s Supreme Court.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Citigroup say they already provide reimbursement for workers needing medical procedures that aren’t available locally. That benefit would extend to abortions if the new Idaho law takes effect.

“The benefit is not specific to abortion or a response to any state law,” Adam Bauer, spokesperson for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which has 120 employees in Idaho, said by email. “Our insurance plan has historically covered out-of-state medical care, and will reimburse lodging expenses depending on distance traveled.”

Citigroup has also said that abortion travel reimbursement would be included for employees with health coverage paid by the company, which has large operations in Texas, where similar restrictions on abortion have been put forward.

“In response to changes in reproductive health-care laws in certain states in the U.S., beginning in 2022 we provide travel benefits to facilitate access to adequate resources,” Citigroup said.

There’s no word yet whether Micron Technology, the largest for-profit employer in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, with about 5,600 people in Boise, will join them.

“Micron always considers the health, safety and well-being of our team members and thus is currently reviewing the legislation,” spokesperson Moira Whalen said by email. “If necessary, we will share any updates with our team members as appropriate.”

Micron says it maintains a corporate culture of empowering its employees and stresses diversity, equality and inclusion. It has a particular emphasis on “enriching life for all.”

Other companies, including Apple, Levi Strauss & Co., Match Group and Bumble are also offering travel benefits for abortion care.

“As a Texas resident, I am shocked that I now live in a state where women’s reproductive laws are more regressive than most of the world, including India,” Match CEO Shar Dubey, who grew up in India, wrote in a letter sent to employees.

Match Group, which owns dating apps Tinder, Hinge and PlentyofFish, has about 400 employees in Texas.

Last year, the nation’s most restrictive abortion law went into effect in Texas. It bars an abortion at about six weeks – before many women know they’re pregnant. There’s no exception for rape or incest.

Idaho’s law was based on the Texas statute that allows the public to sue anyone who performs or facilitates an abortion. Idaho’s law is slightly different – it allows only family members to sue abortion providers, and it doubles the $10,000 maximum that Texas plaintiffs can seek.

While Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed the bill last week, he said he had reservations and expected that the law violates constitutional rights. Little wrote in his transmittal letter that he fears the “civil-enforcement mechanism will in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise.”

On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky filed a petition with the Idaho Supreme Court to block the law.

The petition says the law violates the Idaho and U.S. constitutions by unconstitutionally granting standing to parties who have not suffered an injury. It says the law also delegates enforcement power to private parties, something banned by the Idaho Constitution. And the $20,000 Idaho fine, the petitioners argue, is punishment without due process, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs ask the state Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional and forbid Idaho courts from validating it.

After the Texas law went into effect Sept. 1, the number of legal abortions in Texas fell by about half that month, compared with September 2020, a study showed. The total decrease in reported abortions on Texas women was only about 10%, though, based on an increase of Texans who went to another state for an abortion or ordered abortion pills online, according to data compiled by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.